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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Gift - Wedding Dress Prompt - by Kate

Here's my response to the "Wedding Dress" prompt; inspired by "something borrowed," I decided to work on an excerpt from an original Star Wars story I doubt George Lucas would ever allow me to publish. The Star Wars setting is borrowed but the characters and the rest of the story are all mine! The story is set sometime in the 1500 year gap between the Old Republic era and the events leading up to the films. The expanded universe hasn't explored this period of time - to my knowledge - so I feel comfortable inserting my small bit of Star Wars history here.

Also, YIKES, this is long! I appreciate you sticking with me! 





Author's Note: I've always wanted to write something that involves time traveling, because I think the possibilities are endless for such a story! With regards to Star Wars, they are always introducing new BS Force powers, so why not time travel? I find it a intriguing concept that will be the linchpin of this particular tale. And I can't resist the whole "forbidden romance" aspect of being a Jedi, as well the complete and utter hypocrisy of the idea, since 99% of the Jedi in Star Wars stories end up shacking up. The excerpt below involves the protagonist, Zeph, revealing his "secret power" to his lady friend.

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Lazuli looked up from her magazine (Core Couture; this month’s feature was “How to look good in Hyperspace”)  when she heard a soft rapping on her door. Rhythmic and familiar, she instantly recognized the specific cadence as the secret knock she shared with a certain individual – and if he was calling this late at night, it usually meant one thing. She rose from her small cot, warm and comfortable but terribly plain, spared herself a quick glance in the mirror she refused to dispose of, and quickly opened the door to her dormitory, yanking her visitor inside by his dark robes.   

“Wandering the halls so late…do I have to punish you?” she purred, mockingly, as she enfolded herself in his arms, pressing herself against his body as her lips met his. His kiss was perfunctory and utterly civil – the way she imagined he would kiss his mother, if he had one – and she thought that perhaps she should have given her reflection a bit more consideration before admitting him into her chamber. It only took her a second though, if that, to discern that his visit was for another purpose, a purpose that had him jittery and nervous. He hid his emotions well, as was customary of a Jedi, but she easily saw past his solemn fa├žade.
Out of respect, she refrained from using the Force to probe into his thoughts, but his nerves had her worried. Zeph was usually so unflappable, often to the point of seeming smug (this aspect of his demeanor greatly annoyed his Masters; incidentally, it this exact trait she found most attractive about him), that she knew something was up – and that something was not what she had been anticipating to arise when she heard him knocking on her door.

Lazuli backed off from him, gently, resisting the urge to cross her arms and tap her foot with impatience. The tiny, austere chamber the Jedi Order provided to each of its Knights (it had taken her over a week to convince the Council that having a mirror was necessary for her to fulfill her duties) suddenly felt too small to hold either of them, let alone both. So great was her sensitivity to the emotions of those around her, that she found it sometimes had the unfortunate side effect of working as a two-way conduit. His anxiety had seeped into her unbidden, and she desperately wanted him to get whatever this was, over with.

“I…I have something to tell you.” Zeph finally spoke, his normally clear and calm voice now a harsh, unsure whisper. It was late, and the walls weren’t particularly thick, but whispering was not necessary to keep a conversation private.

“Alright,” she replied quietly, but refused to play his silly whispering game. Had the Council finally had enough of their little romance, conducted more and more brazenly right under their highly dignified noses? That she and Zeph were…involved was a very poorly kept secret and she knew the day would come when it was no longer tolerated. He seemed all nerves though, and no anger or defiance, so perhaps that wasn’t it.

“I’ve found I can do…something, something using the Force. Something…unusual.” Zeph stressed this last part oddly, and she found herself looking up into his deeply-set eyes, brilliant, icy blue. She found no answers there, only cold raging waters threatening to drown her – if that was a good or a bad thing, she wasn’t sure.

“What…what is it that you can do?” She was whispering, now. And the apprehension she felt as she asked that question was all her own. She feared the worst, her Master’s lectures on the “evil” of the Dark Side, lectures she had dismissed as rubbish, suddenly sounding very real and very frightening in her mind.

“I…”he raked a hand through his long, disheveled dark hair. “I know this is going to sound…crazy, but,” he glanced around them (as if there were any space for someone to hide in this tiny cell), leaned forward and whispered in her ear, “I…I can go back – go back to the past. I can traverse time.”

Lazuli didn’t recoil from him in shock, or accuse him of a cruel joke, but she opened herself up to the Force now, using it to delve inside his brain – something she very, very rarely did to him– and saw that he believed what he had said, believed it with all his heart. She recalled a time from their early Padawan days, both of them still more child than adult, a time when he had been just as certain his Master had confiscated his Swoop Racer cards (“Bree Habbak is really rare!” ) and a week later had discovered them still quite in his possession, having fallen behind his bed. This situation was surely quite similar, a big misunderstanding, because “time travel” was not merely unusual, it was impossible. The Jedi and the Sith had figured out ways to manipulate and control nearly everything around them, even death itself, but the one constant amongst this chaos was time. It flowed the same for the Jedi Master and the rockmite.

“Tell me what happened.” She tried to keep the skepticism out of her voice, but he gave her a knowing smile, as if to say I knew you wouldn’t believe me. Rejection…was that what had him so nervous?

“You have something, don’t you? A coin. A man gave it to you when you were small.”

This time, she did recoil, stunned, as if he had just blasted her with a fistful of lightning. She knew she had never told anyone about it, and it so rarely crossed her mind these days that even mumbling about it in her sleep was out of the question. 
 
“You?! How did you…?” Her mouth continued to move but words wouldn’t come out.

“Just think about it. Do you remember when you got it?”

Lazuli did remember. She had been five years old – barely – and it was one of only a handful of memories from her early youth that she recalled so clearly. She had been out with her father, a very rare occasion to get even a few hours of his very expensive attention (he had always said, “time is money, my darling.”) wearing a dress of fine blue silk and her hair, so blonde it was nearly white back then, done up in plaits and beads. She had thought she looked very smart and grown up, and had comported herself accordingly. So when her father had been pulled aside to discuss trade routes or some such, she had continued along the aisle at the bazaar, eyeing wares with the same air of superiority the other fine ladies possessed.  

When she turned the corner she saw him (or possibly her, but she just knew this person was male), a solitary hooded figure, draped in thick dark cloth, obscuring his entire person from head to toe. A shady figure, to be sure, not entirely uncommon at the bazaar, but even then she had realized that a duke’s sole daughter, legitimacy aside, was a highly valuable target to the underworld.  But she knew there was no malice in this man, knew he wanted her to approach him. Of course, at age five, all she knew of the Force was that it was a kind of magic, and was utterly clueless that it was precisely that “magic” that gave her such uncanny knowledge. 

She had approached the figure with the kind of unassuming curiosity only a child could possess, and it extended a gloved hand, depositing a strange, silverish coin in her small open one. The man stood there for a few seconds longer, saying nothing, then slowly turned and shuffled off the opposite way she had come.  Something strange and unspoken had passed between them, something as a child she could not completely conceptualize, but the impression had be left. She never told anyone about it, even her father, even her lover, because she knew it was their secret.  And now, fifteen years later, as Lazuli regarded the man in front of her, vulnerable and sincere, she realized he filled the mold left inside of her so many years ago. She realized the stranger had not been a stranger at all, but the man she would one day care for more than any other, and that the reason her five year old self had trusted him so completely was because more than anything, she had felt his love. 

“Do you see, now? It was the only way I could think of…to be sure you would understand. Are you mad? Please don’t be mad.” Zeph put his hands back on her again, pulling her close, and she vaguely realized she was shaking. She nodded dumbly, still reeling from this revelation.

“I’m not…when did you…How did you…?” Lazuli was so full of questions she couldn’t properly articulate any single one of them. Perhaps other women would have found this whole scenario rather creepy (and it really kind of was), but she was amazed – and intrigued. The ramifications, the sheer possibilities for such a power – as there was really nothing else to call such a thing – had yet to occur to her. 

“Well…the first time I did it, it was really an accident, I had no idea what I was doing.” Zeph was talking fast now, excited, anxiety and whispers discarded just like yesterday’s news. “I was sitting around, thinking about the Mandalorian Wars, you know, and what it must’ve been like to be there, really wondering what it would be like to be a Jedi Knight fighting there…and suddenly, there I was. Let me tell you,” he chuckled rather sheepishly at this, “it was really not so great. Really. At first I thought I was dreaming or hallucinating, but then there were some grenades that almost took off my…well anyway, I realized what had happened, sort of, so I thought of my room a lot, and how great it would be to be back there, really just great…and then there I was.” Lazuli was well aware of Zeph’s proclivity for rather long-winded storytelling, but right now she was hanging on every word.

“I still thought that maybe it was a dream or something – it was all so weird - so I decided to be a little more academic about it, and put myself back to the night before, you know, when I was supposedly off fighting Mandalore or whoever. I was in my room, standing in the same place, but suddenly it was dark out, so I figured I had to have it right, and left “me” a note.” Zeph dug around in his deep pants pocket and produced a small square of paper that looked like it had been folded and unfolded quite a few times. In his sloppy script, the note read:

Hey Handsome,
 I had no idea the Mandalorians had grenade launchers either.
-          Z
 
She sincerely hoped he did not become pen pals with his past self – the resulting correspondence would be absolutely nauseating – but all of this still didn’t explain the coin business.

“How did you know where I was? When I was?”

“Well, luckily, your dad was a big-shot, so most of the stuff he did was pretty well-documented, so I looked him up in the archives, and evidently that particular day he discussed some pretty important stuff, because there was an article about some trade act or something, and I guess they were going for the human interest piece because the writer mentioned he came up with this idea  ‘while out shopping with his young daughter.’ It had a date and a place, but not a time, so I just kind of camped out there before the booths opened and looked for you. Pretty clever, huh?” He seemed extremely impressed with himself, and she couldn’t help but feel the same way. If he’d ever put that much thought and effort into any of his studies, he probably would be assigned duties more exciting than finding Senator Mardo’s missing banthas. 

Lazuli extracted herself from him to rummage through a small but ornate box she kept hidden under her bed, containing her most valuable and important things. Underneath a holo of her mother in her early courtesan years, she found the mysterious coin, a bit tarnished, covered front and back in a square-ish alien script with a strangely geometric crest in the center of what she assumed was the “heads” side. She had never seen anything remotely similar to any of the symbols before.

“So, what’s this coin anyway? Where’s it from?”

“I honestly don’t know,” Zeph shrugged. I found it a few years ago when I had to clean one of crypts in the Temple (she was fairly certain that by now, he had cleaned every crypt in the Temple, at least once). “I thought it was cool looking, so I held onto it and just never ended up throwing it out. “

Lazuli was very relieved that Zeph had returned to his usual audacious demeanor, but knew that this revelation of his was not to be taken lightly. It was something she would have to think over – or “meditate on it” like a “good Jedi” – but that was something for later. The two of them scarcely had alone time lately and she didn’t want to waste it thinking. 

She stowed her coin back in her safe box and by the time she turned around, he was upon her, shoving her rather unceremoniously – but she didn’t mind – onto the bed, and with talk of time travel already in the distant past, they picked up right where they had started.

7 comments:

  1. Great stuff Kate, really refreshing Star Wars characters, not your traditional stiff old Jedi, and look at all the rules they're breaking!

    Lazuli and Zeph (GREAT names by the way) have fantastic voices and characters which you establish with the bare minimum of exposition, they really come through in their mannerisms and dialogue, well done.

    You use fantastic adjectives, everything has such specific, purposeful word choices, it shows that its very carefully crafted; word play is definitely your strength. The only drawback I see is that sometimes the words get in the way of the storytelling; some are great flourishes, and some are flourishes for flourishing's sake.

    Example: Rhythmic and familiar, she instantly recognized the specific cadence as the secret knock she shared with a certain individual.

    Which you could cut to: She instantly recognized the rhythmic cadence as the secret knock she shared...

    Its nothing major and it also diminishes (for whatever reason) as the piece goes on, but I noticed it. That said, you have a great word bank to draw from and I wouldn't want to discourage you from using it!

    Stuff I loved: Core Couture, I had no idea Mandalorians had Grenade Launchers either, and Lazuli's eyes lighting up when she starts to realize the possibilities for Zeph's powers.

    All in all awesome first post. Thank you for putting sex in, as after reading Wheel of Time for the past month or so, this has increased the amount of sex I've read about by 100%.

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  2. Thanks for the feedback! And LOL at your Wheel of Time comment.

    Do you have any suggestions for warm up exercises? I've definitely noticed the awkward phrasing cropping up in my writing as well, and I feel like a big part of it is getting warmed up. I'd prefer to work out the kinks in a warm up piece so I can go into my actual piece with some momentum.

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  3. That didn't even occur to me, great idea on the warm ups.

    One I used back in the day in my London class was Free Writing: you just write for five minutes straight without stopping, usually ends up being gibberish, to get all the crap gestating in your head out on paper, get a clear palette for writing. Some days it worked for me, some days it felt like a waste of time.

    Another one in the same vein was to write out any song, conversation or word that had been stuck in your head until it got out. Again, mixed results for me, but some people loved it.

    Here are two warm ups from this creative writing book I have from an old class:
    -Re-read your old cannon, highlight what you like and don't like about a piece just before you sit down to write. The things you want to change will be fresh in your mind as you start to create something new.

    -Set goals for yourself as you write. They can be as simple as writing the whole piece without using a word you usually lean on, or writing an entire piece without using an adverb.

    That's all I've got in my back pocket. We should definitely do a brainstorm sometime on a bunch of good warm ups and start a Warm Up bank!

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  4. As a Star Wars nerd, I loved this. Interesting that we have characters that obviously embrace love without turning over to the dark side. Maybe its because they are far less whiny than Anakin. FYI, I'm a pretty harsh critic of most fan-fics, but this was completely readable and enjoyable. Like how you made me care about the characters, and explored a part of the force not taken on by George Lucas (although he may be reading this and tapping his chin), while still remaining within the canon.

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  5. Wow, thank you so much Holly! It means a lot that a fellow Star Wars "nerd" likes this idea! Honestly, I get the whole Buddhist zen thing with the Jedi, but all the crap about emotion and whatever leading to the dark side is, well, just crap! So my plan for these characters is that, while their feelings for each other may cloud their better judgment at times, it ultimately makes them stronger - because they have something to fight for.

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  6. When you first described the Jedi Couple to me a while back, I had this idea for a Force power based on it. As the lovers are able to experience passion, love, fear, ect as a result of their relationship, but still remain in control enough to use the force, I think it would be interesting if one learned how to use the force to manipulate those emotions in other people. Make them suddenly have spikes of passion, anger, loneliness.

    I imagined Lazuli using that kind of power (as I think it would fit her character) to get the upper hand in conflicts. Using it to make a Jedi fly into a rage during battle and lose focus, or make someone give away their secrets to her by making them lovelorn, things like that. My little offering on the altar of crazy force powers!

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  7. Awesome suggestion Richard! It ties in really nicely with what I had planned for her anyways - I hinted on this a bit in the piece, but basically she is ridiculously good with the Jedi Mind Trick, and I like the idea of more subtly manipulating people by using their emotions and fears against them, instead of giving them a straight command like we've seen in the movies. I would daresay that THIS is precisely why she is so good at it - she understands these feelings because she hasn't denied herself.

    (And for the sake of character balance and anti-Mary Sue, she pretty much blows at everything else Force power related)

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